Tough Travelling

“Tough Traveling” is a weekly Thursday feature created by Nathan at Review Barn where participants make a new list each week based on The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones. This hilarious little book cheerfully pokes fun at the most prevalent tropes in fantasy. All are welcome to take part, and there is a link up over at his site. Join in any time!

Northern Barbarians dwell in the snowy part behind the northern MOUNTAIN range. They are very barbarous and tend to kill strangers on sight. This is because the males spend their time in longhouses honing their fighting skills. It is not certain what their females do.

BeowulfBeowulf – Beowulf by Unknown Author

If you like epic fantasy at all, do yourself a favor and read Beowulf. The titular Beowulf is a classic “Northern Barbarian,” an Anglo-Saxon warrior known for his skill in battle. You’ll see many tropes that remain part of contemporary fantasy novels (some have even been featured in Tough Travelling before) today, and you’ll get that slice of insight into Tolkien’s creation of LoTR since it had a profound influence on his writing. I recommend the Seamus Heaney translation – it really is the best.




First TestScanrans – Protector of the Small Quartet by Tamora Pierce

Located North of Tortall, Scanra is home to a Viking-like people whose . The country is ruled by King Maggur, who sits on the Bloody Throne. He is lovingly referred to as “King Maggot” by…basically everyone who’s not a Scanran. These guys fit the more traditional “evil barbarian” mold and are often cast as enemy characters in Tamora Pierce’s Tortall universe.




The SkystoneThe Barbarian Hordes – The Skystone by Jack Whyte

The action of The Skystone – the inciting incident, if you will – begins when the barbarians breach Hadrian’s Wall, constructed to separate Roman territory from…basically everyone else. Our narrator is Publius Varrus, a Roman Britain who’s tasked with guarding the Wall against the imminent invasion, which is sure to be swift and brutal. Those barbarians know what they’re on about.


    • bookwraiths

    • 8 years ago

    Wow. All interesting choices that I have never read. Well, I recall reading some portions of Beowulf in high school but not the whole epic story. Thanks for mentioning some great books that I need to give a try. 🙂

    1. I liked all of these, but MAJOR love goes to Beowulf. I admit that I’m a sucker for classics, so when you pair that with some great fantastical elements it’s golden!

  1. Ah, of course, Beowulf!!! Why do I always forget to include the classics?!

    1. Well, if it’s any consolation I am studying classics in school! I do love them, though. Beowulf is a favourite of mine. That’s some seriously old-school epic fantasy right there.

    • Lynn Williams

    • 8 years ago

    Oh no! I haven’t read any of these. I really should read Beowulf! In fact it should be on my classics list! Damn!!!
    Lynn 😀

    1. DO IT, LYNN! Beowulf is seriously brilliant. Clearly you like epic fantasy, what are you waiting for?! 🙂

  2. I wouldn’t have remembered Beowulf, but that’s a great one for a Northern Barbarian!

    1. Thanks! I just can’t believe I forgot Conan.

    • Rabindranauth

    • 8 years ago

    Can’t believe I forgot Beowulf -.-

    1. It’s pretty cool how many classics apply to these tropes, isn’t it? Thankfully I had English classes to remind me of Beowulf’s awesomeness in recent years!

        • Rabindranauth

        • 8 years ago

        Well modern fantasy has its roots in classics like these; Tolkein supposedly used the Norse Eddas to create Middle Earth and LoTR. And Dante’s Inferno remains the most horrific, fantastical journey I’ve ever read 🙂 So a lot of the tropes can be traced back to these stories 🙂

        1. Exactly! Classics are not as boring as everyone thinks!

  3. Well done. We all should have used beowulf, even though I have only read a simplified version someone once put together for high school people.

    1. You should definitely give the full version a try! I think you’d really like it.

  4. I can’t believe that no one else came up with Beowulf; I totally spazzed on it too. Drat! Hopefully I’ll do better next week. Happy Friday!

    1. Hey, it’s about time I got one that no one else had LOL. Same to you, Carmel! Prepare for pirates next week. 😉

  5. My hubs loves though Jack Whyte books from when he was in highschool – personally I’ve never read any of these except Beowulf and gosh that was so long ago!

    1. Jack Whyte’s books are oldies but I love ’em! I went through a pretty intense Arthurian legend phase back in high school. You should definitely give Tamora Pierce’s novels a try – the older ones are pretty trope-heavy but still completely inspired. She’s a badass feminist fantasy author and I love her for it.

      1. Totally seconding the Tamora Pierce love here. Her books are awesome.

  6. Does Alanna travel up to Scanra in the Song of the Lioness books? I can’t really remember but I’m sure they weren’t only big players in Kel’s books… Always, love that you included them!

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